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What a night and an impressive accomplishment for the great Ovi. Just two players in history had ever reached 800 goals and Alex Ovechkin used a hat trick to complete this feat.
Of all the greatness we have been blessed to watch throughout the career of Alexander Ovechkin in the 18 years since he started scoring goals for the Washington Capitals, perhaps the foremost is this: He will choose the most dramatic way to reach whatever milestone lies ahead. He came into Tuesday night’s game in Chicago three goals short of 800. He faced the Blackhawks on the road, and then had three straight home games. Get your tickets. Eight hundred was bound to happen in the heart of the nations capital right?
Except it happened Tuesday night in Chicago. No. 798 came 24 seconds into Tuesday’s 7-3 victory in Chicago. No. 799 came off a rebound eight minutes later. And No. 800 think about that, 800! came 6 minutes, 34 seconds into the third period. If he’s done it once, he’s done it 800 times.
So what awaits at Capital One Arena? Perhaps Thursday night against Dallas, or Saturday night against Toronto, or certainly by Monday night against Detroit would be Ovechkin’s 801st goal, which would tie Gordie Howe for the second-most in an NHL career. That pre-Christmas stretch which includes a quick trip to Ottawa, then a Dec. 23 home game against Winnipeg could well include No. 802, which would leave Ovechkin with only Wayne Gretzky’s 894 ahead of him. With such an incredible career these insane accomplishments are like stocking stuffers at this point.
It says something about this moment and this accomplishment that the fans at United Center in Chicago, rather than ruing the moment, chanted, “O-vi! O-vi! O-vi!” He is Ted Williams and Michael Jordan and whatever other historical character you want to insert into the conversation. The greatness we have been able to watch from Ovechkin will be talked about for centuries.
For just a little historical context Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby entered the NHL in the post-lockout season of 2005-06. This is not to say one is better than the other, because Crosby plays center and Ovechkin is a winger, and their jobs and responsibilities are different. Plus, Crosby has dealt with quite a few concussions that have hindered his ability to play regularly. They have been compared against each other for a decade-and-a-half. They’re completely different players and to be respected individually in their own right.
But Ovechkin’s 800th goal is absolutely an occasion to cast his career against his peers. And the result is there are no comparables. In 1,305 games since he debuted, Ovechkin has scored those 800 goals. That, of course, is the most among his peers. But it’s just as important to recognize that Crosby is second during that time. His totals: 534 in 1,137 games.
Let those totals sink in for a moment. Crosby, an instant Hall of Famer who has won three Stanley Cups and two Hart Trophies as the league’s MVP, has scored .47 goals per game very respectively. Ovechkin’s pace over the same period meaning, playing with the same set of rules in the same set of circumstances is .61 goals a game. Just an incredible stat to process in our own minds.
Essentially, if he plays two games in a row without scoring a goal, it’s an anomaly. Yeah, there a few players that will almost certainly will finish with more goals than Ovechkin this season. But it’s an easy bet that none of those players will be 18 seasons into their careers and scoring once every two nights out. Not even close.
This has been talked about before, but it’s worth revisiting now. Gretzky was a marvel, and there’s no taking away from what he accomplished over a career that spanned two decades. But it’s important to note that career stretched from 1979-80 to 1998-99 in the NHL.
Included in that span: Since World War II, no season has resulted in more goals allowed per game than 1981-82, when the average was 3.95. That year, Gretzky had an inconceivable 92 goals and 212 points. Video game numbers.
That was the style at the time. Ovechkin’s rookie year or 2005-06 yielded 2.92 goals per game, the next year 2.77, the next year 2.61. The point: Goalies were bigger and better, and it was harder to score. Ovechkin scored anyway. In the past 20 years, the years in which it was hardest to score were 2015-16 (2.51 goals/game) and 2014-15 (2.52 goals/game). Those are Ovechkin’s numbers for age 30 and age 29 seasons. In Gretzky’s corresponding seasons, the league